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Science work pays off

Four undergraduates, alumna earn NSF fellowships

Josh Smith, April Makukov, Christina Villalobos, Andrea Valdez and Lydia Jennings were awarded the fellowships, which provide $138,000 to support three years of graduate education.

All five participated in rigorous research through CSUMB’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) and demonstrated an elite level of scholarship while at the university.

Smith, mentored by Dr. James Lindholm, researched fish habitat in submarine canyons. His summers were spent at the Center for Coastal Marine Science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and at Long Marine Lab at UC Santa Cruz. A marine science major, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz.

Working with Dr. Cheryl Logan, Makukov, a biology major, is investigating the impacts of ocean acidification on rockfish. She has had summer research placements at San Diego State, Hopkins Marine Station and at CSUMB. She will enter the Ph.D. program in biology at the University of Vermont.

Villalobos, a marine science major, was mentored by Dr. Corey Garza. She is studying how certain small crustaeans may be affected by climate change and how that may impact the fish population. Her summers were spent at Friday Harbor Labs at the University of Washington, at Horn Point Labs in Maryland, and at the Shannon Point Marine Center in Washington. She hopes to attend the University of Washington.

Valdez, a biology major, was mentored by Dr. Aparna Sreenivasan. Her research focuses on sea stars with wasting disease, work she plans to continue in graduate school. Her summers were spent at the University of Missouri, Moss Landing Marine Labs and at UC Santa Barbara, where she combined her skills in molecular biology with her passion for marine science in studying sea stars.

Lydia Jennings, a CSUMB alumna, is now enrolled in a Ph.D. program in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. Her research centers on finding ways to improve the environmental and public health issues associated with copper mining in Arizona.

The NSF graduate research fellowships went to 2,000 students – from more than 16,500 applicants – across the country; 500 of them were awarded to undergraduates. CSUMB was the largest recipient of undergraduate awards in the California State University’s 23-campus system.

Fifteen CSUMB undergraduates and three first-year graduate students have received NSF fellowships since UROC started in 2009.